Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Romance without much, well, ROMANCE

I realized the other day that I still have two more books to review for that Romance Reading Challenge (I *might* possibly sometimes be a little scatterbrained), and decided to blog about the disappointment that Daphne du Maurier's The Parasites recently provided.

The back of the Parasites copy I recently picked up at a used bookstore claims that this book is "ONE OF THE MOST DAZZLING SAGAS OF LOVE EVER WRITTEN." Much like Maureen Johnson's utilization of capitals, this statement is greatly exaggerated (and slightly humorous).

Before I begin talking about its plot/characters/etc., however, perhaps I should first write about why I picked up this book in the first place. This is the second du Maurier book I have read. And while I didn't much like this particular book, I greatly enjoyed reading du Maurier's Rebecca. When I am talking about my opinion of romance (I can be quoted as saying that a lot of romance is glorified pornography, which I discuss briefly in this blog), I almost always cite Rebecca as an example of a well-done romance. With regard to my high opinion of Rebecca then, and the large amount of smut on the romance market, I would say that Parasites is actually like neither. It's kind of just...vacuous.

The author knows how to write, but I wouldn't say The Parasites is well written. The three characters whose point of view we are given have led interesting, eccentric lives, but the reader is not extremely interested.

I don't know if du Maurier was trying to fulfill a contract, or a bit desperate for money, or [insert third option here], but I feel like she was burnt out. It is also possible, of course, since I have only read two of her works, that she only wrote one work of high caliber. I will be nice, however, and assume that when she wrote the work which I am currently discussing, she was under duress of some kind, and so it is not an indication of the general skill evinced in her writing.

I will finish with a brief summary - for there is always a reader out there for every novel, and just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you believe me when I say it's not that good, and hey, maybe you'll even like it, and I've probably been running on this segue long enough -

The Parasites involves a life-changing moment in the lives of three (kind of) siblings who have been relying on each other a bit too much throughout their entire lives. The children of famous parents, two of them have achieved fame themselves, and one has generally been concerned with more practical manners, and has never developed her own talent. All three are unhappy in their own way, and this life-changing moment prods them into dissecting their sordid past, and ultimately, trying to figure out what pursuit would lead them to happiness.

I feel impelled to say that for a love story, the book is remarkably lacking in love.

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